Transport logistics have long since ceased to be the simple process of sticking things in a box and sending them somewhere. The ‘sending’ has now become as critical to the competitive equation as quality and price. We can thank eCommerce for that. In fact, we can thank the entire digital age for giving consumers the impression they shouldn’t have to wait for anything. Books, music and movies can be downloaded and enjoyed in mere minutes.
Online shopping carts can be filled in equally quick time and checkout-to-delivery is expected to be a day, not a week. Welcome to the challenge facing transport logistics; a challenge the industry must embrace to remain in the market.
Digital technology created the problem and, to a large extent, digital technology will provide the solution. Delivery systems can no longer be manual, people-driven processes with laborious inputs and outputs.
The connection between the purchase and the ignition of its processing has to be instant; as does the tracking of its progress from origin to destination. And that means computerisation, information technology and data systems management to upgrade entire delivery systems. These systems need to be fast, flexible and constantly updated to incorporate any innovations and keep ahead of competitors.
Australia’s relative isolation creates a conundrum our international competitors don’t face. We can’t reach major markets such as China and the USA as fast as anyone else – long haul flights are long haul flights. So how do we get our products up to speed?
One solution is to base manufacturing and warehousing offshore and closer to demand. This also means offshore labour, but if local suppliers can get to the market fast enough to compete, money otherwise lost will still make the trip home.
More than one billion new consumers are expected to become active on the global market in the next ten years as incomes in developing nations grow. Who supplies all that new demand? With our modest local market, any aspiring and adventurous Australian companies should be clamouring to find a way to get their products in the right place in the right time.